A tiny little tax returns from hiatus

Dear Benny,
Beginning in January, a new tax was deducted from my paycheck (and everyone’s, I assume). The line item was just “SUT” on my pay stub, so I e-mailed Payroll to ask what it is. They said it’s the State Unemployment Tax, a 0.02 percent deduction.

Granted, it’s not a lot of money, but what is it? I can’t find any information on it on the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Web site, and when I e-mailed them for more info, they just pointed me to the Department of Labor and Industry. I haven’t been able to find anyone there who can tell me what it is— they just handle processing unemployment claims.

Maybe you can help with this?

—Even My Patience is Taxed

Dear Discouraged,
Your long quest for information has finally come to an end.

John Currie in the press office of the Department of Labor and Industry sent me a news release from last December announcing this tax increase.

The reason you didn’t hear much about it then is because this tax is automatically imposed whenever it is needed to ensure that the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund has enough money in it to pay claims. A 1988 law provides for automatic adjustments to the tax employers pay to the fund; if the balance falls far enough, a tax on employees also kicks in. In January, the employee tax was reinstated for the first time since 1996.

Dear Benny,
I am an officer in the Army Reserve, and my unit has been called up for service in the Persian Gulf region. Will I be able to maintain my Penn employee benefits while on military leave?

—Duty Calls

Dear Called to Serve,
Yes. Under Penn’s military leave policy, the University will provide military pay and benefits continuation for a period of time for employees called to or volunteering for military service. For those reporting for duty from now through Feb. 25, 2004, the paid military leave period has been extended from 10 work days to 90 calendar days. During that period, Penn will make up the difference in pay if the military pays less than your Penn base pay. After this period, you may use Paid Time Off to continue your pay or take unpaid leave up to a maximum of five years. Either way, you can continue most of your benefits after the military leave period by contacting the Penn Benefits Center.

There are steps you need to take before you report for duty in order to make sure your pay and benefits continue and that your job will be waiting upon your return. See www.hr.upenn.edu/policy/policies/611.asp on the Web for details.

Originally published on April 3, 2003